Increased surplus doesn’t change amount available for teachers, B.C. Finance Minister says

The B.C. Liberal government has made balancing the budget its top political priority. (Rafal Gerszak for The Globe and Mail)

The B.C. Liberal government has made balancing the budget its top political priority. (Rafal Gerszak for The Globe and Mail)

B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong says the province’s balanced budget remains on track but there is no fiscal room to sweeten the pot to get public school teachers back to work.

At the first fiscal update since he tabled the B.C. budget in February, Mr. de Jong told reporters in Victoria the surplus now looks slightly bigger,  $266-million, for the current budget year.

But he said  “that includes an assumption that all labour agreements will be reached within the current affordability mandate.”

The B.C. Liberal government has made balancing the budget its top political priority, and the budget presented in February was balanced on a razor’s edge. The province has settled labour contracts with more than half of its public sector workers in the current round of bargaining, and has maintained that the B.C. Teachers’ Federation will have to settle for the same terms as the rest of the public service.

The province’s 40, 000 public school teachers have been on strike since mid-June.

Mediator Vince Ready had said the two sides are too far apart on wages,  benefits and working conditions to warrant mediation.

Final story here

What to expect Tuesday on the B.C. teachers’ strike

Jump to Wednesday’s lookahead.

Mike de Jong Christy Clark

Premier Christy Clark, left, looks on as B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong tables the budget in the B.C. Legislature in Victoria in February, 2013. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

10 a.m., Victoria

While neither the B.C. Teachers’ Federation nor the government’s negotiators have public events planned Tuesday, there is one item on the schedule that could be of interest to those following the dispute: Finance Minister Mike de Jong is expected to release the province’s first quarterly fiscal report of 2014-15, with an overview of the forecast for the current fiscal year. Expect reporters to put questions to Mr. De Jong about what the province’s financial situation might mean for a future contract with teachers. UPDATE: Increased surplus doesn’t change amount available for teachers, B.C. Finance Minister says

Reported Elsewhere

Does a teachers’ strike invalidate a student’s transit discount pass? It may seem illogical, but The Province is reporting that one high-school student was told by a driver to pay full bus fare when she presented her student discount Go card on Monday. A Translink spokesperson said the cards are still valid, but that the agency didn’t have enough information to investigate that incident.


 

In Victoria, school employees who aren’t teachers but are represented by CUPE are refusing to cross the picket lines. As part of an agreement with the province, they get paid anyway. From the Times Colonist:

“They come. We have a picket line [of teachers] outside the office. We take roll call. Because there’s a picket line, they can’t cross it. They leave and they’re paid for the day,” said Jim Cambridge, superintendent of the Sooke district.

Full story here.